National trials under closed doors

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The much looked forward to Inter Club Sevens 2022 which was to take place this week-end has been scrapped, but selection for the national sevens will go ahead at the Sugathadasa Stadium under closed doors. This will be used as the yardstick to select the national sevens squad for the Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens in England and Asian Games Rugby Sevens in China later this year. The trials will take place on 23 and 24 April with the pool of 56 selected players divided into four teams. All players will be housed at the Sugathadasa Stadium hostel.

At a meeting convened by Director General Amal Edirisooriya two days back at the Ministry of Sports, all eight club representatives were present. Due to the current unrest in the country, Kandy SC were reluctant to travel down to Colombo, while the Police have deployed their team members to maintain peace around the country.

At the meeting it was decided to complete the remaining league and knock out games between 14 May and 5 June. If there are further delays, the century-old Clifford Cup knock out tournament is in danger of being cancelled for yet another year, which will be tragic.

It’s likely that the shortlisted players (20 Men and 20 Women) will go into training in the near future with the Commonwealth Games just three months away. It is very likely the coaching unit for both outfits will be named soon. Fazil Marija or Nilfer Ibrahim is likely to take over the Men’s outfit, while Saliya Kumara is the front runner to look after the Women’s outfit.

According to reliable sources, Kandy SC will miss Jason Dissanayake who has migrated to England, while former Kingswoodian Lavanga Perera is nursing an injury. It is likely that Tharinda Ratwatte, Srinath Sooriyabandara, Thilina Bandara, Danushka Dyan, Nigel Ratwatte, Kavindu Perera, Buddhima Piyarathne, Danush Dange and Heshan Jansen will make it to the final 20.

Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR), President Rizly Ilyas speaking to Ceylon Today said: “Whilst it is rather unfortunate the former Minister of Sports Namal Rajapaksa decided to temporarily suspend SLR and hand over powers to Director General (DG) Amal Edirisooriya to oversee the administrative and operational functions and also conduct the Annual General Meeting, it is important that the sport of rugby is not hindered in any way. The Inter Club Rugby Sevens Tournament is important and must take place and must be fully supported to do so. We also need to select a Sri Lanka Sevens squad for the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian Games where the experience gained from Commonwealth Games would certainly stand in good stead for our talented Tuskers to win a medal at the upcoming Asian Games.”

“In the event the scheduled Sevens Tournament cannot be played this week due to the current crisis the country is faced with, we advised the selectors to look at conducting trials with the selected 56 players (both men and women),” he added.

Illyas went on to say: “The players are keen and the coaches are excited. They have been in touch with me personally and we at SLR have assured them that either the inter club tournament or trials to select players will take place this weekend to complete the 20-member shortlisted pool.

“There is some light at the end of the tunnel for the players and the winner should be the game of rugby sans all the political dramas and personal agenda’s that we have experienced recently, which brought rugby to a halt. It’s so nice to read and hear the people who were in charge of the Ministry talking about transparency. But if that, plus good governance, ever existed in their books, then all this drama would have not been called for,” Illyas concluded.

Speaking to Ceylon Today DG, Amal Edirisooriya said: “At this moment of time in the country, we are unable to arrange a sevens tournament. So, for the time being we will go ahead with the selected squad of players and allocate them to four teams and take it on from there with the help of the National Rugby Selectors. This will be the best option available at present”. 

By Special Correspondent